Minnesota Department of Health Environmental Laboratory Accreditation Program (MNELAP) - Minnesota Dept of Health

Minnesota Department of Health Environmental Laboratory Accreditation Program (MNELAP)

ATTENTION

The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) Environmental Laboratory Accreditation Program (MNELAP) has received information that accredited environmental laboratory facilities and commissioner-approved assessors are delaying onsite inspections due to limiting facility access or travel restrictions that have been implemented because of COVID-19.

Minnesota Legislative session Laws 2020, chapter 74, article 1, section 13 allows the Commissioner of Health to temporarily delay, waive, or modify Minnesota Statutes 144.98 and Minnesota Rules, Chapter 4740 that governs the certification of environmental laboratories.

MDH supports accredited environmental laboratories’ and the commissioner-approved assessors’ efforts to protect public health and offers the following guidance for accredited environmental laboratories to maintain safety during COVID-19-related restrictions. This is a fluid situation and this notice is subject to change. Implementation would be upon approval and is effective March 13, 2020.

Onsite Assessment Activities of Accredited Environmental Laboratories
If onsite assessment schedules and types are delayed or modified due to circumstances related to COVID-19, accredited environmental laboratories may waive specified intervals and definitions for onsite assessment standards under Minnesota Statutes, 144.98, Subdivision 13. (a) and Minnesota Rules, 4740.2010, Subpart 24.

Implementation for delaying onsite assessment activities of accredited environmental laboratories includes:

  1. Documentation of the date and issues related to COVID-19. The accredited environmental laboratory must include in the documentation the nature and the dates of the non-compliance.
  2. Documentation must be made available for MNELAP staff upon request.
  3. Determining a schedule to have the onsite assessment activities scheduled with a commissioner-approved environmental laboratory assessor no later than the expiration provided in session Laws 2020, chapter 74, article 1, section 13.

Implementation for modifying the definition of inspection to include remote inspection activities of accredited environmental laboratories includes:

  1. Documentation of the date and issues related to COVID-19. The accredited environmental laboratory must include in the documentation the nature and the dates of the non-compliance.
  2. Documentation must be made available for MNELAP staff upon request.
  3. Conduct assessment activities with a commissioner-approved remote inspection procedure and approved environmental laboratory assessor no later than the expiration provided in session Laws 2020, chapter 74, article 1, section 13.

Situations Not Included in this Modification
In situations where an environmental laboratory is applying for initial accreditation or seeking to add fields of testing for new methods/technology combinations, MNELAP will not grant interim accreditation without an onsite assessment meeting the requirements in Minnesota Statutes, 144.98, Subdivision 13. (a).

In situations where an environmental laboratory is applying for initial accreditation or seeking to add fields of testing for new methods/technology combinations, MNELAP will not grant accreditation without the use of an onsite assessment per Minnesota Rules, 4740.2010, Subpart 24.

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COVID 19 - Response and Information

The Minnesota Environmental Laboratory Accreditation Program (MNELAP) is aware that accredited laboratories may have a reduced workforce or supplies necessary to maintain normal operations at some facilities. Please immediately notify MNELAP, clients, and other appropriate regulatory agencies if your laboratory needs to temporarily close or reduce its workload due to COVID-19. MNELAP will work with your laboratory to help redirect your samples to an accredited laboratory and ensure continuity of services.

Laboratory personnel are encouraged to follow the recommended social distancing and small-event guidelines on the Minnesota Department of Health’s (MDH) Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) webpage.

Accredited environmental laboratories are doing their part to maintain operations while protecting their employees. It is recommended that you first check the laboratory’s website, verify fields of accreditation, and confirm that they are operational. Additionally, check the laboratory’s website for additional direction on how to drop off samples, since some laboratories are changing their drop-off procedure to maintain social distancing. If you have any questions, please contact the laboratory directly.

Please notify MNELAP of any temporary laboratory location changes. MNELAP will direct you on how to proceed and the laboratory documentation required supporting the location change.

MNELAP advises laboratories to inventory their laboratory supplies and order supplies earlier than normal to account for delays. Supplies commonly used in the coronavirus response (e.g. gloves, disinfectant, alcohol, etc.) may be harder to obtain or have longer delays. Please contact MNELAP with concerns regarding laboratory equipment and vendor’s delays or shortages that might impact environmental laboratory analysis and reporting.

All currently approved proficiency-testing providers, with the exception of the New York Department of Health Wadsworth Center, are open and have not informed MNELAP of any scheduled delays in Proficiency Testing (PT) studies or the delivery of PT samples. Please contact the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency for concerns regarding the Discharge Monitoring Report Quality Assurance (DMRQA) studies.

If your laboratory needs to do an application in order to add or drop fields of testing or change laboratory information, please consider paying by electronic payment (PDF). At this time, there is limited staff in the office to process paper checks. MNELAP will not process applications without payment.

MNELAP staff are available by phone and email to answer questions concerning environmental laboratory accreditation. MNELAP understands that these times represent abnormal working conditions for laboratories and that laboratory personnel may have questions about accreditation status or meeting specific regulatory timelines during the coronavirus pandemic. As the COVID-19 situation changes, please know that MNELAP continues to monitor the situation and will communicate through direct notification and webpage updates.

Environmental laboratories conduct analyses of our air, water, soil and other materials. Clients of environmental laboratories include municipalities, consultants, public health officials and commercial entities. Analyses performed by laboratories are often used to determine compliance status with federal, state and local regulations. These analyses have a direct effect upon human health and the environment.

The Minnesota Department of Health Environmental Laboratory Accreditation Program (MNELAP) was established in 1989 to help ensure laboratories submit reliable and consistent data to Minnesota's various environmental programs. MNELAP offers accreditations designed to accommodate the needs of many state and federal environmental programs including testing required by the Underground Storage Tank Program, Clean Water Act, Resource Conservation and Recovery Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act.

MNELAP develops procedures and requirements to ensure accredited laboratories produce accurate and precise test results. Accreditation requires the laboratory's quality systems, staff, facilities, equipment, test methods, records and reports to be evaluated. The 2009 Minnesota Statutes requires the commissioner to accredit laboratories against a national standard as adopted by the National Environmental Laboratory Accreditation Program (NELAP) of the NELAC Institute. Effective July 1, 2009, laboratories accredited by the department must comply with the 2003 NELAC standard, the current adopted standard for NELAP.

  • Accreditation Requirements

  • Information about the environmental laboratory accreditation program and process to conduct analyses of air, water, soil and other matrices.
  • Events

  • A listing of upcoming events, standard modifications and training opportunities.
  • File a complaint

  • A form to notify MNELAP about concerning laboratory activities or data quality issues.
  • Laws and Rules

    The requirements for accreditation and accredited laboratories.
  • Tools and Resources

    Technical assistance, standard interpretations, ELDO training, document templates, approved PT providers and laboratory resources.

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Updated Thursday, 24-Sep-2020 15:35:43 CDT